mothering, motherhoodA few weeks ago, I visited my favorite neighborhood coffee lounge, a mutual gathering place for Mac-toting hipsters and middle-aged woman like myself. That particular day, I ended up sharing a stainless steel (whatever happened to cozy couches and overstuffed chairs) with two moms who were out for a bit of respite with the aid of coffee therapy. We glided through conversational formalities about where we live, how many kids we each have, and then the topic of mothering flowed into our dialogue. I casually mentioned that I have been in the business of being a mom for decades, but they guessed that…

friendship and motherhood

I don’t know what gave it away exactly, except maybe it was the blasted gray hair that I missed in my latest home hair maintenance session (time to switch brands). Maybe the thin lines etched in the creases of my eyes and lips, or the dark circles that lay like muddy puddles under my eyes (which concealer no longer hides). Take your pick. The evidence was clear that I was old enough to mother these girls.

The froth on my latte hadn’t even melted when they started asking questions about balancing the demands of motherhood and life in general. These two young moms longed to peer down my years of mothering, the victories and the defeats, as a sort of periscope into their future. They wanted to gaze down the well-traveled road of motherhood. Regardless of our age difference, I am still mothering, still doing the great balancing act, so a sort of sorority-like bond formed that afternoon at the hipster coffee hangout.

I had fifteen minutes or less to search my maternal heart and scan my mothering memory bank to offer some morsel of encouragement before either one of us swallowed our last sip of coffee. Patrons filled the place, but for a brief time, it was as if three of us were the only people taking up space in the room. The “mom off duty” clock ticked for these women, so I reached deep into my pocket of experience and pulled out of few thoughts for them to take away:

Maintain Your Spiritual Life

It might seem evident that this is an important point to remember. When the emotional and physical demands of motherhood stare us in the face, we neglect our time spent with God which is our priority. My new favorite gift to give to new moms is not a cute outfit from Baby Gap, but a meaty yet time manageable devotion that can hold her over until she has time for a heavier portion.
Some of my favorites:

Jen Wilkins’ Women of the Word: How to Study the Bible with Both Our Hearts and Our Minds

Gloria Furman’s: Treasuring Christ When Your Hands Are Full: Gospel Meditations for Busy Moms

Pam Forster’s: Child Training Boot Camp: A Thirty-Day Bible Study

Give the gift of wisdom in a frame, like Ann Voskamp’s sticky notes for the soul. Hang these truths throughout your house, especially in the spaces of your home that beckon for most of your time, oh… the laundry room and the kitchen!

Live Out Deuteronomy 6

Deuteronomy 6 is possibly the heart and soul of parenting from birth to adulthood. The chapter outlines in simple Moses-speak, the duty of a parent, is to have a heartfelt love and commitment to God and then teach it to our children.

Slow Down the Speed of Life

American children are some of the most over-scheduled kids in the world. Slow down the pace of your life. I can recall the moment like it was yesterday; the details are so vivid that I still remember the scent of lilac wafting in the late spring air, the warm wind flapping the clothes on the line as my third daughter and I sat under the poplar tree reading The Secret Garden. Time seemed to stand still that afternoon. That daughter is now sixteen, and I am forever grateful for the chance I had to capture slow moments like the one beneath the poplar tree. Even after I’ve walked, trampled, crawled, and schlepped down the road of motherhood several times, I still wrangle with the temptation to over-schedule my kids with activities.

Be the parent who forfeits a season of toddler soccer to gain free afternoons to watch the shapes in the clouds or share a tea party on the porch with your kids, or eat ice cream, unhurriedly and unplugged. Motherhood is a season and seasons change quickly, so savor every moment. Click To Tweetbe willing to give up your daily visits to the gym or graduate school or whatever it takes to grab every moment, slowly.

Mothering, the Great Balancing Act
Discover Your Child’s Love Language and Speak It Often

Not too far into our parenting, my husband and I, with the help of God plopping the book into our lap, discovered the late Dr. Gary Chapman’s book, The 5 Love Languages of Children: The Secret to Loving Children Effectively. The book revolutionized how we communicate our love to each of our children. Like adults, children receive love in different ways, so Chapman outlines the five basic ways to show kids love in a way they understand. The ah-ha moment for a parent is realizing that the way you’ve been demonstrating love to one child is NOT the same way your other kids may receive it. The concept is to direct love to a child in the way that child is wired to accept it. The challenge for any parent is to remember that a child’s love language does not necessarily match that of the parent. What does that mean? It means that an extra measure of effort is required on the parent’s part to communicate love to your child that DOES NOT come naturally to you.

Surround Yourself With Gospel-Centered Friends

As you walk the path of motherhood, there will be days of loneliness, frustration, discontentment, and the list could continue. When these feelings creep up or loom large, a friend who nurtures a passionate relationship with Christ should be the one you meet for a cup of encouragement.

Find a Mentor

The value of a great mentor is immeasurable. So how does a mom go about finding a mentor? Often they sit in the pew next to us or live just a few doors down. They are the women of our churches and our neighborhoods. Mentors don’t need to be a theologian to have a spiritual impact in your life, but there are a few characteristics to look for when seeking a mentor. She does need to be mature in her faith with a life that bears fruit from her spiritual maturity. A mentor has time to devote to the relationship, which is often why older women or an empty nester fits the role of a mentor. A loving mentor listens weighing your words with humility and discernment. She teaches you by example.

Our time came to an end.  The coffee consumed.   Experience and transparency dabbed the tears away.  I think the next time I visit my coffee get-away, I will ask for a medium coffee rather than a small, not too much froth.  Maybe it will buy me more time to speak longer about one of the most sacred callings: motherhood.

 

 

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4 Comments

  1. Laci Patterson on April 1, 2016 at 3:01 pm
    Beautiful Denise and exactly what I needed in this moment!
    • Denise Sultenfuss on April 1, 2016 at 3:29 pm
      We are on this mothering journey together!
  2. Brad Rayfield on April 1, 2016 at 7:02 pm
    As if I needed more proof that my sister was awesome! Great job Denise.
    • Denise Sultenfuss on April 2, 2016 at 7:29 am
      The journey has been a long one.

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